From the Editors

On My Mind: Nail Art Is NOT Dead

by NAILS Magazine | June 10, 2009

NAILS ran an article in 2001 asking “Is Nail Art Dead?” At the time, nail art seemed to be on the wane and the percentage of salons offering nail art and airbrushing had dropped several points in our annual survey. At the time, nail art was the domain of only the seriously talented hand-painting and airbrush artists. It required a certain knack most of us aren’t born with. We asked some manufacturers and nail techs to give us their take on the state of nail art. Their responses were varied, but the general outlook was that while it might have slowed from its heyday in the 1980s, it certainly wasn’t dead.


Jump forward eight years, and we see that not only were the early 2000s not the waning days of nail art, but it’s become so huge that it seems nail technicians can’t get enough. And now anyone, with or without natural artistic talent, can be a true nail artist. In NAILS’ 2008 Big Book survey, 78% of you said you offer nail art, a majority that can be attributed to several factors:


The fashion industry has accepted nails as part of its inner circle. “Runway nails” are created weeks in advance to add effect to the overall look. Gone are the days when models sashayed down the runways sporting natural nude or red nails. Top designers like Betsey Johnson and Baby Phat work with CND, a leading fashion partner, to create extravagant “accessories.” The consumer press is also embracing the growing nail art trend. From Prada ads with bejeweled nails to Us Weekly features on celebrity nail art, nails are no longer pushed to the side.


Even demure clients will try nail art on their toes. The toes are the “it” place to experiment with nail art. Glitter toenails, a subtle, but undeniable form of nail art, are all the rage. And even my most conservative of friends has gotten into the nail art craze with a small flower, stripes, or polka dots on her toes.


New nail art products have created a nail art renaissance. With the rise in colored acrylics and colored gels, nail art has literally gone 3-D. Combine these products with the influx of new items to embellish the nails — rhinestones, Mylar, crushed seashells, dried flowers, fimo clay canes — and nail techs have a whole arsenal of supplies to entice clients with interesting designs. Minx, the heat-activated nail coating that comes in a variety of patterns, goes on in a snap. And with a growing celebrity following that includes Beyoncé, Lindsay Lohan, and Katy Perry, expect to see more clients requesting fun patterns.


It’s gotten really easy. Back in 1999, Tom Bachik embedded feathers for a NAILS cover. He likely bought them at a craft store. But today, as a result of nail techs searching outside the industry for inspiration, manufacturers have begun offering and packaging all these little doodads for the sole purpose of nail art. Open the package, adhere them to the nail and apply top coat or gel seal, and voila, you’re a nail artist!  


If you’re still wondering whether your clients will try nail art, I have one thing to ask, and that is, Are you sure? Sometimes all it takes for a client to say yes is seeing something really cool to spark her interest. Are you wearing “rock star toenails” yourself? Maybe you’re wearing a simple glitter fade on your own nails. Put free sets of your new nail art specialty on the hairstylists and receptionists in your salon. They are bound to have clients who will sit up and take notice.


And it’s not just your young clients who might be tempted to try it. Just ask Houston-based nail tech Athena Elliott. Her 86-year-old client Naomi Friedman is a new fan of nail art. The octogenarian told us, “Age limitations can be a figment of one’s imagination. Bling is part of the new frontier for the elderly female.” I leave you with that thought.


— Hannah

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